Monday, January 01, 2007

The Heart of the Gospel

We saw yesterday that spending eternity with God requires trust or faith in Jesus Christ. But to get to the point of faith, we need to understand what it is that we believe and why we believe it.

“It’s one thing to know the facts,” said Dr. Douglas M. Cecil (The 7 Principles of an Evangelistic Life, Moody Publishers 2003), “but it’s quite another to agree with them and accept them as being true.”

In Dr. Cecil’s book, he cuts to the heart of the gospel in ten words:

Christ died for my sin and arose from the dead.

Let’s look at four decision factors that shape our faith in Jesus Christ:

I. Who is Jesus?

"I and the Father are one." John 10:30

Jesus Christ is the Son of God who stepped into our world as a uniquely divine-human being 2,000 years ago. The ministry of Jesus on earth is a matter of biblical and non-biblical historical record.

II. What did Jesus do on earth?

He gave us precious insight into God. He brought us truth. He showed us how to live. He died on the cross. He rose from the dead. He provided for us an incredible gift and hope.

III. Why was the death and resurrection of Jesus important?

1. God created a “contract” with mankind in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15-17) that was broken. When Adam and Eve caved to temptation and took forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:6), they exercised an option to sin that has plagued us ever since.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

2. Sin not only poisons our lives, but also threatens to separate us eternally from God. This separation is the ultimate death. Mercifully, God had a plan to save us. He sacrificially offered His Son as a “ransom” for the penalty of our sins.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

3. Then, in a miracle that could only be achieved by an all-powerful God, Jesus rose from the dead!

“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” Matthew 28:6

IV. How can I benefit from what Jesus did?

You can be free of the ultimate anguish of eternal separation from God that awaits those who reject Jesus Christ. The promise of everlasting life in heaven is yours simply by putting your trust in Christ.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.“ Ephesians 2: 8-9

Back to Trust...

So we come back to the matter of trust. In yesterday's post, Dr. Cecil compared trust to the confidence we place in the person who flies our airplane. We trust in other ways. When I go to McDonald’s to buy an ice cream cone, I hand the cashier a dollar bill. She and I don’t shove everything aside and check serial numbers or get a conference call going with federal counterfeit experts. We trust implicitly, automatically, innately… that the dollar bill is currency of real value.

Placing our trust in Jesus is infinitely more secure and meaningful than any confidence we place in pilots or dollar bills or anything else in our natural world. But these illustrations give you a sense of what we mean by trust. There’s a book called “Even the Demons Believe.” The title is provocative because it makes a contrast between what it is that we believe, intellectually, and what it is that we hold, internally. Trust in Christ involves belief, acceptance and commitment. It’s an intellectual decision that is internalized in the mind and the heart... then lived as the Spirit of God shines through us.

Coming Soon: A Summary and What Comes Next?

(Photo by Roger Smith, see for restrictions.)

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